Tips and Tricks

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The art of smart snacking

Being a snackaholic is good for you and your child too. Here's how to manage the hunger pangs between meals and make snacking a healthy habit.

Snacking is a major pastime for many children and it isn’t necessarily bad. Snacking can help your children curb hunger pangs in between meals. But what matters here is the quality of your children’s snacks. The trick to healthy snacking lies in choosing nutrient-rich healthy snacks and filling combos of protein and fibre. 

Here are some tips for healthy snacking.

1. Let your kids have a say: Offer comparable choices, such as regular or frozen yoghurt, carrots, whole grain toast or whole grain crackers, apples or oranges. Better yet, involve your children to help you select healthy snacks at the grocery store and again in the kitchen when you are assembling snacks.

2. Designate a snacking zone: Restrict snacking to a place where they can be mindful of what they are eating. Avoid snacking in front of the TV; it only adds to mindless munching and countless calories.

3. Make it quick: If your children need to snack on the go, think beyond a bag of potato chips. A handful of dry fruits, cereal bars, cheese sandwich, saute paneer, cheese slices, nuggets, rolls, or other drip-free items are healthy options.

4. Don’t be fooled by labelling gimmicks: Foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free can still be high in calories. Likewise, foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, saturated fat and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story.

5. Go for grain: Whole grain snacks are the best bet for growing children. Such options will keep a child full and at the same time provide necessary nutrients to be up and about.

6. Out of sight, out of mind: If the cookie jar is full, your children will clamour for cookies. But if there aren’t any cookies or junk food at home, fresh fruit or veggies may seem more appealing to them. Be wise, and choose what to store in that jar.

7. Play with your food: Ask your children to make towers out of whole grain crackers or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruits. You can use a tablespoon of peanut butter as glue.

8. Think outside the box: Offer something new to grab their attention. Fresh pineapple, berries, red or yellow peppers, or roasted soy nuts, could be tried to add variety to children’s snacking option.

9. Mix and match: The trick is to appeal to the eyes to tempt the tongue. Serve baby carrots or other raw veggies with fat-free ranch dressing. Or make a fruit salad in yoghurt or cream. Top celery, apples or bananas with peanut butter.

10. Revisit breakfast: Many breakfast foods – whole grain cereals and whole grain toast – make great afternoon snacks. You could try ragi dosa, rawa idlis, upma and poha as other options.

11. F factor: Fun when added to food makes it tempting. Make shapes out of paneer and cheese slices, whole grain bread. Eat diced fruits with chopsticks. Give snacks funny names. Dedicate a day to a particular snack. Do what it takes to make snacking fun-filled.

12. Do it yourself: Promote independence when it comes to snacking. Teach your children to help themselves. Keep a selection of ready-to-eat veggies in the refrigerator. Leave fresh fruits in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Store whole grain cereals in an accessible corner in the kitchen so that they can grab it as and when they want it.

13. Practice what you preach: The best way to inculcate healthy habits in your children is by allowing them to watch you doing it too. If they see you munching raw veggies or snacking a bowl of grapes, they are bound to do so, and quite effortlessly.

14. Be patient: Your children’s snacking habits may not change overnight. Look for positive changes over weeks or months. Go slow, but keep at it.

15. Follow a timetable: Timing makes a difference. The key is to follow snack timing, like mid-morning, mid-evening, and bedtime. And do not give snacks or beverages to the child prior to or around the main meal time.

Good feeding strategies:
1. Allow kids to eat five to six small meals a day.
2. Offer five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
3. Choose healthy sources of protein such as paneer, cheese, lean meat, nuts and eggs.
4. Serve whole grain breads and cereals because they are high in fibre.
5. Limit the intake of fast food and junk food.
6. Allow them to eat when they are hungry and don’t force them to eat when they are not.
7. Avoid feeding too many sweetened beverages, especially bottled and canned ones; encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Bad feeding strategies:
1. Erratic eating pattern – eating anytime or all the time.
2. Drinking milk all the time.
3. Binging on unhealthy snacks and junk food.
4. Having sweet beverages instead of water.
5. Giving in to their whims and fancies relating to diets.
6. Using food as a reward or punishment.

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